HIROSHIMA -- Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has stated clearly that Japan will not join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in remarks during an Aug. 6 press conference after the peace memorial ceremony marking the 76th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Suga referred to "the increasingly severe security environment" surrounding Japan, and said the country will not ratify the nuclear weapons ban treaty.
The prime minister's comments defied Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui's statements in the Peace Declaration he delivered earlier the same day at the peace memorial ceremony, in which he urged Japan to ratify the landmark treaty that went into effect in January. In his address, Matsui also asked nuclear powers to join discussions to help maximize the treaty's effectiveness.
In a bid to elicit a policy shift among nuclear-weapon states' leaders, their allies and other parties yet to participate in the treaty, Matsui called for civil society to reach a consensus that nuclear weapons are unnecessary. He also urged the Japanese government to sign the treaty and attend the first Meeting of States Parties.
But Prime Minister Suga's speech at the peace memorial ceremony in Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima's Naka Ward did not mention the nuclear weapons ban treaty, and instead reiterated the conventional government position of Japan as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear nations. It was Suga's first time attending the ceremony since taking office.
After the ceremony, Suga met representatives of A-bomb survivors' groups in Hiroshima, who requested to the prime minister himself that Japan join the nuclear weapons ban treaty.
Due to surging coronavirus infections, 751 people attended the ceremony -- less than 10% of a normal year's attendance. Twenty-four of them were representatives of A-bomb victims' bereaved families invited from prefectures across Japan.
Representatives from the United States and 82 other countries and European Union member states also joined the ceremony, and observed a one-minute silence at the stroke of 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 127,755 people with an average age of 83.94 held A-bomb survivors' certificates as of the end of March.
(Japanese original by Isamu Gari, Hiroshima Bureau)